When I talk about your “vision,” what am I actually talking about? Your vision is generally regarded as your sight – your ability to see. In this context, I’m talking about your ability to see into the future.
For this, you use your imagination rather than your eyes, but the point I’m going to keep returning to in this book is that this experience is equally as “real” as anything you might focus on in the external world. And here’s the kicker – you can form in the external world what you are able to see in your inner world. You just have to believe it’s possible and form the most detailed, vivid imagining that you can.
I’m going to mention a couple of things up front here. The first is the difference between having a vision and setting goals. There are many proponents of goal setting, and breaking large tasks down into manageable to-do lists helps lots of people get things done incrementally. However, this isn’t what I’m talking about. Setting goals is something I’ve tried myself, but it’s been nowhere near as effective for getting me where I am as painting an “impossible” dream and holding it in my mind, feeling it through my body and focusing on it with all my intent.
The second thing I want to address is a common question that arises: What if my vision changes? Is my vision allowed to change? The answer is a resounding yes! As I said before, life doesn’t move in a straight line. Reality is fluid. Your vision is allowed to evolve as you evolve, and you may find that the universe responds to you in mysterious ways. Focused on one possible future, opportunities and developments may arise that take you in a different direction if you so choose – to a new vision you didn’t even know was possible until events unfolded.
I’m thinking of my own path here – I set out to become a strength and conditioning coach, working with pro athletes, but the further I went on my journey, the more I found different things popping up out of leftfield – my vision grew, my horizon expanded, and things that hadn’t even crossed my mind in the beginning became a possibility. If I felt like pursuing them, I did, and watched them become a reality.
Often, in business, what you start out thinking will make you successful doesn’t end up being it. It’s amazing what comes up when you start seriously pursuing a dream.
Find your spark
Before you jump into painting your vision of the future, I want you to really think about why you are doing this. You need to know why because this will keep you going. This is your motivation, your inspiration, your spark. This is what ignites the jet fuel and lights a fire under you. This is what makes everything worthwhile.
This cropped up in the introduction of my book, Quantum Success and this burning question will continue to crop up whenever anything becomes an effort, or takes up your time, or demands your energy, especially when things are hard, and you perceive they’re not going your way. You’ll need to stop, pause and think: Why am I doing this? What is the point?
For me, it was the thought of my son – what I wanted for him – primarily his safety, but then the possibility of a limitless future. When things were at their toughest, he was the spark that kept me fighting. I would think about why I was doing this – I wanted to be a role model for him. I wanted to achieve my dreams to prove that it was possible, so that he would have no problem ever believing that he could achieve his own.
Before we go any further, I want you to dedicate some serious thought to this. It might not take much digging at all to find your underlying motivation, but the more you think about it, the more it will become entrenched in your brain, ready to give you a kick of inspiration and motivation whenever you need it most.
These are the considerations when you are trying to identify your spark:
- It must be personal.
- It will be something or someone you are passionate about.
- It has to be important to you NOW – something in the present, not something from the past.
- It is what makes you tick. Deep down, it makes you who you are.
- It is a trigger. The thought of losing it is what will get you fired up enough to fight for your vision.
- It isn’t logical; it’s emotional – something that rips you at your core, deep in your heart and soul.
You need to take some time to uncover this part of yourself. It might be a very simple answer, but, again, you need to really think about it and engage your emotions at the same time. When the going gets tough, you want your brain to be programmed to immediately spark your resistance.
Permission to dream
Now comes the fun part. I want you to give yourself permission to dream. No dream is impossible, so dream big! The very fact that you have imagined it means that it is a possibility in the field of infinite possibilities. Napoleon Hill went so far as to clip the word “impossible” out of his dictionary.
Make your vision so crazy and out there that people think you’re NUTS. If you aim for the moon, even if you “only” get half way, you will still hit the stars.
I always think of this story I was told. Two guys were at a party for New Year’s and they both decided to write out what they wanted to accomplish by the following year’s party. They put what they’d written inside an envelope and sealed it. The following year, the first guy opened up the envelope and took out his piece of paper excitedly. He told his friend that he hit his goal of making 100K. His friend took out his piece of paper and just looked at it. “Did you do it?” the first guy asked. “No,” his friend replied. He only hit fifty per cent of what was written down. The thing is, the figure he’d written down was five million.
Now here’s another important point. Don’t only give yourself permission to dream. Give yourself permission to have. So many people struggle with this concept. The idea of owning things that others don’t or making their fortune can lead to them feeling consumed with guilt. This has been part of our conditioning, but it makes no sense! Only when you have can you share. And if you work hard and go the extra mile, why shouldn’t you have everything you desire? You are not taking from others. There is more than enough to go around, and anyone can change their reality and go after what they want. Doing it for yourself proves to others that it’s possible. It’s not about having material possessions, but the meaning you attach to them.
Give yourself permission to dream, to have whatever you desire. You’re human; it’s okay! Give yourself permission to let go of guilt. The more you have, the more you can share. Let’s contrast a different kind of dream; I want to tell you about another of mine. It was to visit a children’s hospital in Boston on a holiday with my family and hand out gifts. There is no greater joy a human can experience on this planet than helping someone. Being able to visit and deliver joy to these children is simply amazing. It’s a tradition I hope my children will continue when they’re adults. For a while, it was a vision in my inner world – through taking appropriate action, I have transformed it into a reality in the physical world.
So once you’ve found your spark and given yourself permission to dream, how do you put it into practice? The answer is effective visualization.
Think about how famous athletes visualize their success. They actually use mental training more than physical training because it allows them to train perfectly at all hours of the day. Take Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter’s work with Olympic athletes as a sports psychologist and performance coach. She speaks of an Olympic speed skater she worked with and how visualization helped her to succeed. Dahlkoetter describes every step of the imagery the skater used, which incorporated all of her five senses into the experience: feeling her forefoot pushing off the track, hearing her skating splits, seeing herself surge ahead of her competition. Going through the elements of the race over and over again using mental training techniques meant she set a new American record at the Olympic Trials.
In the same way, Olympic skiers will go over the perfect run in their mind. They know every turn and how they will feel at each turn. Sometimes, on TV, they will actually show you the racer going through his/her mental training before the event – it’s pretty cool to watch. They can see and feel themselves flying down the mountain as fast as they can possibly go and finishing a flawless race. They can tell you about the feel of the snow and the terrain at any point on the course.
Do you think that is the only time they are using visualization? Athletes imagine success twenty-four hours a day. Practice really does make permanence. The important thing to note is that it has to be the right kind of visualization.
A lot of people speak about using visualization for success, but very few people really teach the different types of visualizing that people do on a day-to-day basis.
Most of the visualizing that people do is useless, because it is more like daydreaming. The mind wanders aimlessly with no direction or consistency; it’s more of a distraction than anything productive. Daydreaming about something gets you nowhere; it just wastes valuable time.
Purposeful visualization is the form that most personal development gurus teach their students. However, in reality, it’s very ineffective as well, and only slightly better than daydreaming. The only difference between daydreaming and purposeful visualization is that, with the latter, you may look at a picture on a wall, in your wallet or in your bathroom on a daily basis and focus on that, instead of just letting your mind wander with no visual to guide it.
To develop a truly helpful visualization technique, you need to do more.
The future that is created depends on where your attention goes. For visualization to truly create the outer world you envision, you must be fully engaged in your heart, mind and soul. That means your psychological, emotional and physical self all have to be one – completely aligned with each other.
The main point here is to really feel the emotions. If you don’t feel the emotions within your body, then this process won’t work. Your brain won’t have anything to attach the experience to.
In Patti Dobrowolski’s TEDx talk draw your future, she asks, “What dream or vision do you want to turn into reality?” She points out that the odds against making a change in your life are nine to one. Nine to one, she says, even if you’re facing a life-threatening illness. These aren’t great odds at all! But she goes on to present the solution to beating those odds and living the life you desire. She says, “It’s right there in front of you, but in order to achieve it, you must first see it, then believe it, and then you must graciously ask and train your brain to help you execute your vision.”
Talking about the power of a picture, she comments that a picture can create movements, unite nations, pull at your heart and fill you with a deep desire to do something. And it doesn’t even have to be a complicated work of art. As Dobrowolski says, you don’t have to be an artist. You can just simply draw your “current state” and then draw your “desired new reality,” and you have an instant roadmap for change.
It can be stick figures; it can be sketchy. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we’re more easily able to remember something that’s visual. That’s why someone might suggest you look at pictures in a purposeful visualization exercise, as I mentioned. However, as Dubrowolski says, “You get the most power when you paint your own picture.”
Then comes the important step – soaking in it, filling the picture with color, filling it with emotion, getting inside of it. You have to feel the emotions associated with having everything you want.
When you draw and dream, you engage the right side of your brain, the creative side. You silence the critical, analytical left side and release hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, which make you feel happy and motivated.
It comes down to drawing a picture compelling enough to spur you into action.
Just make sure you engage your emotions. Seeing means believing. And, in this instance, believing means seeing.